Maoists in Chhattisgarh say they will release five captive policemen only if the government gives up its plan to set up an army training centre in a forested territory.
This is one of 11 demands put forth by the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in the restive Bastar region. The policemen have been in their captivity since Jan 25.
Sources at the police headquarters here said the rebels have strongly objected to a move of the army's central command to set up a training centre at the doorstep of the 4,000 sq km Abujhmad forest area, which is the headquarters of the outfit and a hideout of its top leaders.
The rebels have also sought the release of a few people who are reportedly in police custody in Chhattisgarh on charges of Maoists links.
They have also asked the government to stop anti-Maoist drives, keep forces out of school buildings and cancel memorandums of understanding with business houses that plan to set up industries in mineral-rich Bastar region that is made up of Narayanpur, Kanker, Bastar, Bijapur and Dantewada districts.
The demand list was sent by comrade Neeti, a leader of the Dandakaranya Divisional Committee East. It also claimed that the captured policemen were safe.
Armed Maoists stormed a passenger bus Jan 25 in an interior location in Narayanpur district and abducted five personnel of the Chhattisgarh Armed Forces (CAF) besides a civilian. They released the civilian Monday but the security personnel continue to be in their captivity.
The policemen, who were unarmed and not in police uniform, were en route to the district headquarters in Narayanpur town from their posting in an interior area after being granted leave.
Officials at the police headquarters here say that the Maoists have probably kept the abducted people at their hideouts at Abujhmad in Narayanpur, a difficult location to enter as it is protected by multiple layers of landmines.
Abujhmad is one of India's most densely forested areas.